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Baseball Prospectus preseason Top 10 Rays Prospects for 2019

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Plus a few surprises in the 11-20 range!

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
Jesus Sanchez
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Baseball Prospectus rolled out their top ten list for the Rays, profiling several more players than that along the way. Let’s dive in.

The Top Ten:

  1. Wander Franco, SS

Who else? The praise his offensive abilities and plus-plus bat speed, saying it “makes Franco one of the elite prospects in the game,” but say in-game defense is still a work in progress for the 17-year old.

Despite a frame that elicited a scout quote of “he’s kind of a block,” Franco has enough present athletic tools to project as a shortstop in the majors [...] he’s a rangy up-the-middle type with good hands and above-average arm strength.

OFP 70—All-star shortstop
Likely 60—First-division shortstop, occasional all-star

2. Brent Honeywell, RHP

BP loves upside, and that remains true for Honeywell:

Surgery can change things. But assuming Honeywell’s stuff comes back, he will quickly be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball again, and quickly after that, a major-league starter.

OFP 70—No. 2 starter
Likely 55—No. 3/4 starter

3. Jesus Sanchez, OF

Sanchez is a player BP is a little higher than standard, seeing less bang or bust in his profile than you might be inclined to see in his profile.

Sanchez’s swing has plenty of lift, and there’s enough present bat control to project him getting most of that plus raw power into games.

OFP 60—Plus regular in right field
Likely 50—Average corner outfielder

4. Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP

Flagging the bat with Small Sample Size qualifiers, the verdict is in on the pitching side:

While he doesn’t have huge upside as a starter, he might be in the majors already if he was solely a pitcher.

OFP 60—No. 3 starter who can DH and PH for you
Likely 50—Backend starter plus Michael Lorenzen

5. Lucius Fox, SS

Fox is slight, but that’s hardly a complaint for a glove first shot stop, and BP has a strong projection on his major league abilities.

Fox is a speedy, slick-fielding shortstop, a lock to stick at the 6 and a potential plus glove there.

A lock!

OFP 60—Glove-first everyday shortstop who bats second
Likely 50—Glove-first everyday shortstop who bats eighth

6. Shane Baz, RHP

Another player BP is higher on than expected, again favoring upside.

Baz has a full four-pitch mix with both the change and curve having a chance to get to average. The arm action is compact, but high effort

OFP 60—No. 3 starter
Likely 50—No. 4 starter or setup

7. Vidal Brujan, 2B

Brujan flew under the radar for BP before this year:

As a second baseman with no other standout tool, however, he was often overlooked in our world. That changed last season, as the bat took a major step forward and he slashed .320/.403/.459 across two levels.

Now BP has a full write up on his abilities that’s worth your time. They don’t see the speed playing his way out of second base.

OFP 60—First-division regular
Likely 50—Average regular

8. Matthew Liberatore, LHP

Liberatore was in contention for BP’s top 101 prospects, but based on the write up will fall short of making it.

He’s a big lefty with three potential plus pitches and smooth, if somewhat inconsistent mechanics. [...] The difference between 3-10 in this system isn’t huge on talent.

He’s got a long way to go, but the getting is good.

OFP 60—No. 3 starter
Likely 50—No. 4 starter or good reliever

9. Brandon Lowe, 2B

The helium prospect of 2018, Lowe makes BP’s top-ten thanks to in-game power.

It’s a leg kick and lift swing from a shorter middle infielder with good knowledge of the strike zone. You know how this can sometimes go.

That hyperlink is BP’s comp to Justin Turner (!).

OFP 55—Brian Dozier-lite
Likely 50—Average second baseman

10. Ronaldo Hernandez, C

BP was the first publication to flag Hernandez, and their report remains positive, despite his fall from No. 5 to No. 10.

He has natural bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline that complements his raw strength and plus bat speed. Relatively new to the position, Hernandez has also made great strides defensively.

That’s a major league projection.

OFP 55—Above-average catcher
Likely 45—Below-average regular, good backup

***

Takeaways from the list overall are that BP sees at least 9 average major league players in the Rays system, and that’s a lot. Elsewhere in the write up, we can summarize the full list as follows:

“The Rays depth in potential high-end prospect talent is impressive and arguably the envy of the entire league.”

Other Players

The list continued on for five names before a smattering of pitchers were name dropped. Here are the quick hits from the next five (BP has robust write ups on each):

11. Shane McClanahan, LHP

[...] expect the Rays to try to keep him in the rotation as long as possible, but he could move very quickly as a reliever if Tampa were so inclined.

12. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B

Lowe isn’t merely a one-dimensional slugger, even though I expect any major-league success to look Three True Outcome-ish.

13. Ryan Boldt, OF

Neither the bat nor glove alone suggest a slam dunk everyday guy, but the broad base of skills should keep Boldt in the majors well into the 2020s.

14. Carl Chester, OF

[...] a potential plus glove in center with a bat that makes you worry he’s a fourth outfielder in the end.

15. Tanner Dodson, RHP/OF

At the plate he’s an athletic, switch-hitting, hit over power center fielder. On the mound he can touch the upper-90s and will flash a plus slider.

And on that last one, allow me to say: The cat’s out of the bag now!

Our site’s writer list at DRaysBay drops after the community voting has concluded, and I was hoping to be the odd man out in pushing Dodson into the 11-15 range. On my personal list, he’s No. 11 given Dodson’s ability to accumulate value on both sides of the ball.

A switch-hitter, Dodson looks like the ideal everyman for a major league roster, even if it’s more Swiss army knife than machete. I’m more comfortable slapping a two-win contribution on his profile than I am the likes of, say, Brujan right now (even if Brujan is a top-ten lock). I might be wrong, but that’s half the fun with prospect evaluations.

Anyway, Baseball Prospectus, you beat me to the punch!

Back on track, BP also went on to highlight several pitchers, including: RHP Austin Franklin, RHP Juse Mujica, LHP Resly Linares, and RHP Tommy Romero. BP also gave a not to catcher Roberto Alvarez in rookie-ball, but had no mention of outfielders Moises Gomez, Nick Schnell, Josh Lowe, or 2B Nick Solak.

You can read the full list here.